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Carville Announces Clinton Loyalty Oath

March 29, 2008

In the Washington Post today ("Disloyalty That Merits An Insult"), Clinton adviser James Carville gave his best Dana Perino impersonation. Defend his hyperbolic denunciation of surprise Obama endorser Bill Richardson, Carville mirrored Perino's famous "once a Bushie, always a Bushie" code of political ethics. By proclaiming loyalty a cardinal virtue above all others, James Carville sounded like a member of the very Bush administration his candidate - and her party - are trying to replace.
A week ago, Carville reacted angrily to the former Clinton energy secretary and UN ambassador's defection to the Obama camp. Calling Richardson's endorsement of Barack Obama an "act of betrayal," Carville got biblical:

"Mr. Richardson's endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate, if ironic."

Today, Carville took to the pages of the Washington Post with a double mission. First, Carville in the wake of the Samantha Powers/Geraldine Ferraro dust-ups wanted to offer a lesson in political desensitivity training:

"I decried the political environment in which, by whining about every little barb, candidates seem to be trying to win the election through a war of staff-resignation attrition."

So he chose to accomplish his second goal, making an example of Richardson, " by demonstrating what constitutes a real insult."
But in defending his Richardson-as-Judas slur, James Carville offered a standard of political morality that could have come right out of the mouth of Karl Rove:

"I believe that loyalty is a cardinal virtue. Nowhere in the world is loyalty so little revered and tittle-tattle so greatly venerated as in Washington. I was a little-known political consultant until Bill Clinton made me. When he came upon hard times, I felt it my duty -- whatever my personal misgivings -- to stick by him. At the very least, I would have stayed silent. And maybe that's my problem with what Bill Richardson did. Silence on his part would have spoken loudly enough...
...If Richardson was going to turn on the Clintons the way he did, I see no problem in saying what I said. Because if loyalty is one virtue, another is straight talk. And if Democrats can't handle that, they're going to have a hard time handling a Republican nominee who is seeking the presidency with that as his slogan."

Absolute, unswerving fealty to the President is the defining trademark of the Bush administration. Just ask any of the former Bush White officials who felt the wrath of Rove and the Republican amen corner in response to their supposed transgressions of disloyalty.
When former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill revealed that President Bush sought war with Iraq well before the 9/11 attacks, he too was labeled a Judas and found himself the subject of an investigation. When counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke highlighted the Bush team's feeble preparation for the Al Qaeda threat, he was called "that little fop" and much worse. As for General Eric Shinseki, who presciently told Congress that the occupation of Iraq would require "something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers," he was simply forced into retirement.
The flip-side, of course, is the politics of payback the Bushies use to seek vengeance against those disloyal few who reveal the administration's secrets and criminal wrongdoing. Convicted felon Scooter Libby was lauded a hero for outing covert CIA operative Valerie Plame. (Fox News' John Gibson raged about an anti-Bush cabal at the CIA" and announced " I'm the guy who said a long, long time ago that whoever outed Valerie Plame should get a medal. And if it was Karl Rove, I'd pin it on him myself.") In December, failed Bush Labor nominee Linda Chavez, too, wanted to pin a medal, this time on Jose Rodriguez, then-head of the CIA's clandestine service, for his destruction of the CIA interrogation videotapes. Meanwhile, the Bush White House and its right-wing allies seek to prosecute the whistle-blowers who shone a spotlight on the administration's illegal NSA warrantless wiretapping scheme.
No doubt, Governor Richardson handled his endorsement of Barack Obama clumsily. His apparent refusal to return phone calls from President Clinton also suggests a lack of courage under fire.
Regardless, in the pantheon of political virtues, several qualities rate above loyalty. Concern for the national interest, fidelity to the Constitution and the law, honesty and integrity and fundamentally, doing what one believes is right (and legal!) for the American people all trump loyalty to the Supreme Leader.
Sadly, in his denunciation of Bill Richardson's disloyalty to Hillary and Bill Clinton, James Carville sounds like any of the sycophants of George W. Bush. As Dana Perino aptly said last year, "Once a Bushie, always a Bushie."


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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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